The Story Behind Great Lakes Brewing Company
In the 1870s Cleveland was a hotbed of breweries. By the early 1980s, the last of them shut its doors. It wasn’t until September 6, 1988 when brothers Patrick and Daniel Conway opened Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland’s historic Ohio City neighborhood, that a new era of Cleveland brewing began.
As Ohio’s first craft brewery, Great Lakes Brewing Company attracted curious locals seeking high-quality flavorful brews drawn from the taps of their beautiful Victorian-era bar. Before long, Great Lakes Brewing Company became one of Cleveland’s most popular destinations for dining and celebration.
The Great Lake Brewing Company is among the bars that will be featured at the 2014 Buffalo Oktobeerfest this weekend, Saturday, October 18. Over 100 fall, seasonal and German craft beers will be available to sample at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.
Master Brewer Thaine Johnson and engineer Charlie Price contributed their talents in the early days. Their three decades of brewing and managing at various U.S. breweries including Christian Schmidt, Cleveland’s last brewery, played a key role in developing first beer recipes.
Raw materials used by European brewers (malted barley instead of corn and rice) were incorporated into the craft brewing process. In the first year, the brewery produced approximately 1,000 barrels of hand-bottled and kegged beer.
Their first beers included The Heisman, a Dortmunder-style beer named for the famed football player (and future trophy), who lived around the corner from the Ohio City Brewery.
The Heisman was immediately followed by Eliot Ness® Amber Lager. The Heisman was later renamed Dortmunder Gold® for both its golden color and the Gold Medal it won at the 1990 Great American Beer Festival.
Dortmunder Gold and Eliot Ness were soon joined by an exceptional family of award-winning Year-Round, Seasonal, and Pub Exclusive beers including Burning River® Pale Ale, Edmund Fitzgerald® Porter, Commodore Perry® India Pale Ale, Conway’s Irish Ale®, The Wright Pils®, Oktoberfest, Nosferatu®, Christmas Ale™, and Blackout Stout®.
In 1992, to meet growing demand, the Brewery expanded to the adjacent Fries & Scheule Building. In 1998 they moved into what now consists of six buildings—three that originally served as horse stables, keg facilities, and bottle storage for the 1879 Schlather Brewing Company.
In 2010/2011 the brewery invested $7M in capital improvements that included a new centrifuge, brewhouse additions for increased production speed and quality, filler, rinser, conveyor and packaging efficiency upgrades, a new grain silo, spent grain tank, flooring and piping, and lastly, the installation of four additional storage and fermentation tanks. In 2012 the installation of three new 3000 barrel fermentation tanks brought their Tank Farm to capacity.
The brewery now produces over 125,000 barrels annually and serves 13 states and Washington D.C.
New this year to Oktobeerfest is the first-ever Buffalo Beer Zone, featuring all your local favorites: